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July 8, 2005

Torture in Iraq

Back in February the U.S. State Department accused the interim Iraqi government’s security forces of “arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions—particularly in pretrial detention facilities—and arbitrary arrest and detention.” A January report by Human Rights Watch catalogued similar abuse:

The majority of the detainees interviewed for this report stated that torture and ill-treatment during the initial period of detention was commonplace in facilities under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior’s specialized police agencies. Methods of torture or ill-treatment cited included routine beatings to the body using a variety of implements such as cables, hosepipes and metal rods. Detainees reported kicking, slapping and punching; prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back; electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, including the earlobes and genitals; and being kept blindfolded and/or handcuffed continuously for several days. In several cases, the detainees suffered what may be permanent physical disability.

So has the Bush administration done anything to prevent these crimes? Not according to a report by The Times of London:

In their haste to put police on the streets to counter the brutal insurgency, Iraqi and US authorities have enlisted men trained under Saddam Hussein’s regime and versed in torture and abuse, the officials told The Times. They said that recruits were also being drawn from the ranks of outlawed Shia militias.
Counter-insurgencies are rarely clean fights, but Iraq’s dirty war is being waged under the noses of US and British troops whose mission is to end the abuses of the former dictatorship. Instead, they appear to have turned a blind eye to the constant reports of torture from Iraq’s prisons.
… “It’s a gruesome situation we are in,” a senior Iraqi official said. “You have to understand the situation when the special commandos were formed last August. They were taking on an awful lot of people in a great hurry. Many of them were people who served in Saddam’s forces … The choice of taking them on was a difficult one. There was no supervision. There still really isn’t any, and that applies to all the security forces. They’re all doing this.”
“This”, said Saad Sultan, the Human Rights Ministry official in charge of monitoring Iraq’s prisons, includes random arrests, sometimes without a warrant, hanging people from ceilings and beating them, attaching electrodes to ears, hands, feet and genitals, and holding hot irons to flesh.
… An Iraqi official said that the Iraqi National Guard, the US-trained paramilitary police, regularly disposed of the corpses of its victims by throwing them in the river. “The problem is that some people have still got that training from the past,” he said. “You have ten or twelve of them in the same unit working, and if they seize terrorists they will torture or kill them.”
He added that while the de facto death squads were not part of government policy, little was being done to counteract them. “These are exceptional times. It’s an emergency.”

And in “emergencies” you can justify pretty much anything. Particularly if your new best American friends really couldn’t give a damn.

Posted by Stephen at 4:50 PM in War | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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